All Philosophy is Morality and Teleology – and Other Tacitly Known Truths?

All Philosophy is Morality and Teleology – and Other Tacitly Known Truths? June 10, 2015

The philosopher Epicurus explicitly said that his philosophy was designed to eliminate "physical pain and mental disturbance" (particularly the fear of the gods and death), resulting in personal happiness.
The philosopher Epicurus explicitly said his philosophy was designed to eliminate “physical pain and mental disturbance” (particularly the fear of the gods and death), with the aim of personal happiness.

Post by Nathan Rinne

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” — I John 4:10

“If religions can be defined as ‘doctrines of salvation’, the great philosophies can also be defined as doctrines of salvation (but without the help of God).” — Luc Ferry

“[philosophy is like a religious conversion]… It involves “a total transformation of one’s vision, life-style, and behavior.”— Pierre Hadot

“Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion — a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality.” — Michael Ruse (see here for source of last 3 quotes)

“There is simply no such thing as a methodological naturalism that is not also an ontological naturalism. And ontological naturalism is, at bottom, a bad theology that does not know itself.”— Michael Hanby

“Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.” — Chesterton, Orthodoxy, chap. 2


Karl Giberson, writing at Peter Enns’ blog today, is playing with fire – particularly in our current cultural context – by undercutting the biblical doctrine of original sin.  Meanwhile, Pastor Jordan Cooper (whose book Christifcation actually contains a ready reply to Giberson and Enns on this issue) is hitting the ball out of the park with the podcast he posted on this blog yesterday – giving an excellent Christian response to transgenderism. This post attempts to deal deeply with pertinent issues present in both of these topics.

Several years ago, when I was thinking about what all human beings could reasonably agree on (as I was discussing cataloging library books with Library of Congress Subject Headings of all things), I came up with the following minimal list…

Getting PERSONal: MyAssumptions. YourAssumptions?

-We exist! (or: “I exist. You exist” [kind of like “I’m OK. You’re OK”])

-We share a world out there

-Despite all the messiness, there is some order out there to be discovered (particularly in the minds of other persons).

-It makes sense (is worthwhile) to try to learn about this world

-Our “epistemological equipment” (senses and reason) also “makes sense”, so we can rely on it to learn about the world out there.

-Our experiences of reality are analogous to other healthy persons (i.e. those who have received appropriate socialization – love)

-People are universally endowed with at least some shared concepts: e.g. “thirsty”, “clouds”, “tears”, “sad”, “food”, “mother”, “father”, etc.

Goldstein on Plato’s mathematically-inspired virtue, basically an amputated natural law: “The beauty of proportionality that has led one on, because one loves it, would cause one to abhor a situation that would bring one into disproportion with everyone else… the impersonally sublime is internalized into personal virtue” (p. 392, 393, see Gorgias 507e-508a, Philebus 64e, and Timaeus 47b-c)
Rebecca Goldstein on Plato’s mathematically-inspired virtue, basically an amputated natural law: “The beauty of proportionality that has led one on, because one loves it, would cause one to abhor a situation that would bring one into disproportion with everyone else… the impersonally sublime is internalized into personal virtue” (Plato at the Googleplex, p. 392, 393, see Gorgias 507e-508a, Philebus 64e, and Timaeus 47b-c)

Looking at this now, as I was trying to find common ground and justification for the same, I certainly was trying to start small

Bigger fish to fry now.  Trying to drastically simplify and make plain the life of the mind. Real philosophers out there – what do you think?:

We know more than we can tell. (Polanyi) More or less so.

Thought experiments can help us see what we tacitly know – and challenge us regarding our claimed beliefs compared to our actual behaviors.

If God does not exist, then there may be subjective “meaning” but no ultimate meaning.

Rather, we make up all as we go, and everything must be about power and practicality. Words, for example, get reduced to manipulation…they are “power tools”.

Therefore, “we” “humans” have no real essence (this is a “useful fiction”) and further, “if God does not exist, the person does not exist”. (Zizioulas)

If God does not exist we must embrace the meaninglessness of all things – except, or course, our own opinions of all things!

So in like fashion, if God does not exist, science does not exist* – at least as many today understand the term science.

For what has become of truth here? Here “truth” and utility are one – with all recognized ethical norms emerging and being created within relevant community(ies).

In sum, what works is true and what is true is what works.**

Furthermore, since all empirical observation is “philosophically mediated”, all of this “science” is really philosophy.***

All philosophy is about how we are to live.

All believe not any way or “form of life” will do – some must be discouraged or even actively suppressed.

Therefore all philosophy is teleology (see more here).

More: all philosophy is morality (see more here).

Akin to an acceptable monastic rule.

Truth, of course, must to some degree be tied up with this.

For if we grow disposed to ignore truth, our neighbor will not let us do so entirely.

Therefore, we speak of “righteous” persons.

These understand they must live in accordance with what is.

The true person lives well, we say, recognizing natural limits and their own limitations.

And yet, for the unbelieving philosopher, what is, physically and morally and spiritually, is even less important than what he wants to do.

Therefore, ultimately curiosity about what is, not conviction, describes him.

For the heart wants what it wants.

And being “true to himself” is the apex.

“His truth” is that creation is god.

All suppress the truth in unrighteousness, but some more so.

He may nevertheless begin to live according to what he knows on earth, but not from heaven.

…”If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”

As C.S Lewis said, Christianity is the Truth Myth.

Therefore: no Christ, no true philosophy also.****

The Christian, as opposed to the unbelieving philosopher, is first and foremost true to Christ.

For he knows the truth is that the Creator, Jesus Christ, is God.*****

And that words – particularly God’s words – are first and foremost, gifts of love.

And that he has been buried and raised with Him in baptism (in the death and resurrection of Christ)!

Peace, joy, and eternal life (beginning now – see John 17:3) with God – the true consolation indeed!

Here we see the real intended end of man.

While a tree or animal cannot deliberate over whether or not to rightly grow and reach their intended end, a man can – a Christian can…

Therefore: Not my will, but yours be done!

Here he finds himself, as he loses himself – along with the whole of Christ’s bride, the church.

He thanks God for what has been, what is, and what will be coming.

And that it is in Him that we live and move and have our being – unto the fullness of life eternal.

He is good! Thank God Jesus is God!




* “No God, no science”, says Michael Hanby, although his approach varies from mine. More interesting things from him: “Current scientific practice is upheld by a political, economic, educational and cultural citadel that is virtually impregnable and that bears only an incidental relation to the search for truth.” To Hanby, Darwinism is a “living affront to the conviction that the desire for truth lies deep within us and plays an active role in extinguishing it….if it is impossible to live as if your theory were true, it probably is not.”

** “…the Baconian equation of knowing and making is…knowing not for the sake of control but by means of control, knowing by controlling which accords epistemic and ontological priority to parts separated through analysis.” (Hanby, p. 34, No God, No Science?)

*** Note that I am not saying here, for example, that all facts are contested due to different worldviews, or something like that. Rather, I would say that we all have much philosophy in common – and it is more our practice than our stated beliefs which demonstrates this (hence the possibility of the MyAssumptions list resonating with others)

Hanby provides excellent fodder for thought here. Again, note that his overall views are quite different from mine:

“….science is constitutively and therefore inexorably related to metaphysics and theology. To say that this science is intrinsically constituted in relation to metaphysics and theology is to say that science is not simply distinguished from metaphysics and theology merely by a difference of method (experimental, empirical, or mathematical) that would demarcate them externally, though this is not to deny that there is a methodological difference. Nor are they simply distinguished in virtue of their end or of the fact that science typically trades in what can be observed, or measured, or predicted, or manipulated. The question of precisely what the empirical sciences observe is a complicated matter, since empirical experience is already a highly “stylized” experience. And it is not always the case, in astronomy, for example, or in certain branches of physics, or even in reconstructing certain features of a hypothetical evolutionary past, that the objects of science can be observed or manipulated. Where it is the case, the very fact that empirical experience is “stylized” is an indication that there is no such thing as empirical observation that is not philosophically mediated. To say, then, that science is intrinsically constituted in relation to metaphysics and theology is to say, first, that it remain dependent upon a tacit metaphysics and theology in the very act by which it distinguishes itself from them, and second, that science is constituted as such in distinction from philosophy can theology by the manner in which it relates itself to them (precisely by distinguishing itself from them), as a way of attending to “the whole” through its perspectival attention toward a part. To say that this relation is inexorable is to say that it cannot be willed away. It can be forgotten, neglected, suppressed, or materially distorted, but never escaped. The more vehemently a Dawkins or a Dennett asserts this atheism, for example, the more definite and grotesque his theology becomes….. conceptions of nature determine in advance what sort of God is allowed to appear to thought and consequently, the range of meanings that can intelligibly attached to “creation”… [this is] an alternative theology that determines in advance both what sort of God can appear to thought and what sort of “nature” may manifest iself…” (pp. 17-18, 19, 35, No God, No Science?)

… If then the assumption that science is extrinsic to metaphysics and theology betrays itself and expresses a distinct metaphysics and theology, what is the distinct ontological and theological content that lies within this extrinsicism and its notions of a metaphysically neutral method and limit?…” (33, No God, No Science?)

**** The man who is religious but not Christians, on the contrary, really does seek the Divine, but does so wrongly – both externally and internally. And until turned by God, he cannot do otherwise.

***** Does the cross of Christ always equal foolishness? We are not saved by reason, but with Christ, grace, and faith, we are certainly saved with, in, and through our reason. This does not mean that we achieve this through reason’s powers – it only means that we begin to understand who we are, our sin, who God is, and His work for us in history. Reason that is truly reasonable cannot be autonomous from sensory experience or history. Divine revelation, which we are told is “at work in you believers” (I Thes. 2) is in part history told by God.

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